No wonder Las Vegas is America’s leading trade show destination and global visitor magnet. With seductions up and down the Strip and in resurgent downtown, “Sin City” is the ultimate players club.To meet in Vegas is to tap into fantasy; like Venice, built on water, Vegas, risen from sand, is uniquely compelling precisely because of its unlikely nature.
Think of Vegas as a blockbuster action-adventure series, each sequel more outrageous than the last—in which you are part of the cast.
For delegates coming off the convention floor, the action irresistibly calls—the cocktail lounge, the pool, the food fest, the casino floor, the big show, the dance club, frequently, but not necessarily, in that order.
Diversified beyond its original gaming roots, however, Vegas offers another action pack entirely: outdoor adventures and team-building programs, some of which, true to Vegas fashion, literally go over the top. With others providing a taste of the extraterrestrial landscapes outside of the city, the following programs, by land, air and water, are true departures from the ordinary.
Black Canyon/Willow Beach Adventures, Boulder City
Located a short distance from the Strip in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Black Canyon is a geological wonder lying just below the mighty Hoover Dam. Formed over millions of years by volcanic activity, the canyon’s walls, rising nearly 2,000 feet, are the dramatic setting for exciting group outings on the Colorado River.
“Our relaxing 12-mile raft tours through the extraordinary scenery of towering canyon walls will stimulate and rejuvenate groups,” says Beth Carden, sales manager for Black Canyon River Adventures.
Tours include a beach lunch before stopping at the full-service Willow Beach Marina on Lake Mohave, where buses take groups back to base or to Las Vegas. Other programs include an exploration of the Colorado River’s mining history and a photo-op tour of Hoover Dam.
Sky Combat Ace, Henderson
Imagine the swagger you’ll bring to the next meeting after executing loops, rolls and spins high above Vegas. That’s just one of the hands-on adventures offered by Nevada’s only civilian aerial combat training center, where expert fighter pilots guide guests to taking the controls on extreme air adventures.
With the Strip and desert mountains as backdrops, aerial encounters include Top Gun, where you chase an opponent through the Nevada skies like a real fighter pilot, and Adrenaline Rush, combining heart-pounding aerobatics with air-to-air dogfights.
Daytime sightseeing adventures in an open-cockpit biplane over the Hoover Dam and Red Rock Mountains are also available, as well as night flights over the city. Back on terra firma, SCA’s dynamic 9,000-square-foot hangar can accommodate events of up to 300 people, with additional outdoor space for larger gatherings.
Dream Racing, Las Vegas
Groups will “lap” up the thrills at this “Italian racing experience” at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The names will be familiar—Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, McLaren—but the 130-mph experience of driving these high-performance race and street cars will rev the adrenaline like never before.
With a range of driving packages, including custom racing events, Dream Racing works with groups of from six to 300 people, with scaled discounts available for larger groups.
Providing luxurious meeting, product launch and conference facilities, including a restaurant and dining area, Dream Racing also offers customized event design support such as co-branded merchandise, decals, banners and conference room setup.
Flightlinez Bootleg Canyon, Boulder City
Home to desert wildlife such as bighorn sheep and offering 36 miles of mountain biking trails, ancient Bootleg Canyon Park, just 20 miles from the Strip, is the spectacular setting for this exhilarating “flight-lining” experience. Starting from atop 3,600-foot Red Mountain, four riders at a time descend in parallel down four separate runs.
“Dropping 400 feet in the first 10 seconds and reaching speeds up to 60 mph, our guests enjoy bird’s-eye views of Lake Mead and the Las Vegas and Eldorado valleys while traveling over 1.5 miles of ziplines,” says Brina Marcus, the company’s director of public relations, sales and marketing.
Created in part to help sustain the park, the program includes a tour spotlighting the history, ecology and geology of Bootleg Canyon.
Dig This, Las Vegas
Brought from Colorado to Las Vegas by New Zealand-born founder Ed Mumm, this “heavy equipment playground” puts individuals and groups behind the wheel of Caterpillar earth-moving machines for 90-minute sessions of hydraulic fun. Among the top-rated attractions in Vegas, it’s the ultimate sandbox for kids aged 14 and up. Bulldozer exercises include building huge dirt mounds and pushing gigantic tires, while excavator exercises include digging deep trenches and playing “Bucket Basketball.”
Full-session buyouts are available for groups of five or more and include access to two bulldozers and three excavators. According to Mumm, half of his clients are women. It’s empowering to move earth, you dig?
Pink Jeep Tours, Las Vegas
Founded in Sedona, Ariz., in 1960, Pink Jeep Tours claims honors as the longest-running off-road adventure company in the U.S. Having served the Las Vegas market for a decade, the operator, with its signature pink “Tour Trekker” vehicles, offers a range of exciting off-road and team-building excursions.
“We invite meeting and event attendees to explore the natural side of Las Vegas,” says Tara Schaup, group sales manager at the company. “Seating 10 people, our ultra-comfortable vehicles are custom-designed to provide a more personalized and interactive experience for groups.”
Adventures include cruising the Strip, backcountry rambles and up-close encounters with the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon. The Drive, Fly, & Float option combines Jeep tours with helicopter rides and rafting.
“We also encourage planners to enhance their group’s experience with our customized, catered picnic lunch,” Schaup says.
Eldorado Mine and Ghost Town Adventure, Searchlight
Founded in 1965, leading global sightseeing operator The Papillon Group offers more than 40 unique excursions via helicopter and other modes in the Las Vegas market. This spring, Papillon is launching a new adventure tour program in Eldorado Canyon, located in Searchlight, Nev.
Departing from Boulder City, helicopters take guests over the Hoover Dam, Black Canyon and the Colorado River to the floor of Eldorado Canyon, where lunch and champagne await. From there, the guided off-road tour explores the legendary Techatticup Gold Mine and the ghost town in Eldorado Canyon. Afterward, guests can select from one adventure activity: horseback or ATV riding, kayaking or off-roading in Baja Jeeps.
A quartet of high-altitude thrill rides await groups at the 1,149-foot Stratosphere Tower, the nation’s tallest freestanding observation structure.
Billed as “Vegas without a net,” the rides include X-Scream, dangling guests 27 feet over the tower’s edge, 866 feet above the ground. Insanity’s 64-foot mechanical arm spins riders at three “G’s” 900 feet in the open air, while it’s four “G’s” of gut-wrenching force as Big Shot fires riders 160 feet in the air at 45 mph. SkyJump, the world’s highest controlled free fall, sends riders plummeting down 108 stories.
You will scream your lungs out, and like Vegas itself, love every impossible moment.